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Buoy, oh, buoy, map it or lose it

By DAVE ZALEWSKI

© St. Petersburg Times,
published September 7, 2001


No buoys are authorized for the Madeira Beach, Treasure Island and St. Pete Beach artificial reefs, but the St. Pete Beach and Treasure Island reefs still have buoys marking the center of the reefs. Map these reefs while the buoys are present. High and low profile structure can be found by running circular patterns around these markers while paying close attention to a depth finder.

These reefs are in about 30 feet of water and some of the structure rises 15 feet off the bottom. Locations can be written from a GPS or Loran, or the MOB (man overboard) key can be hit to place them in memory.

The permitted areas for these reefs are 300 feet wide (east to west) by 2,000 feet long, much larger than most anglers assume, and structure can be found anywhere within the permittedareas.

St. Pete Beach reef has the most diverse structure, including a 200-foot barge sunk in 1984. Ten U.S. military tanks were sunk on it in 1995 and they are a unique underwater sight for divers. Piles of concrete rubble, including bridge pilings and parts of the old Corey Causeway Bridge, can be found all over the reef. Bait stacks often are seen on the surface and can be utilized to find structure as they often hover above the higher profile material.

The Treasure Island reef also has high profile structure. Some of it is located at the existing buoy. The most impressive structure can be found south of the marker and consists of a wall of bridge pilings that look like giant pick-up sticks and several pyramid structures. These reefs harbor large mangrove snapper. Difficult to catch during the day, they are best targeted on a full moon after sunset. Spanish mackerel hover around the bait schools awaiting the opportunity to pick off the weak straggler that gets separated from the school. Large barracuda lay in wait to ambush the mackerel. Gag grouper move onto the reefs in the winter and occasionally can be wrestled away from the structure.

- Capt. Dave Zalewski charters the Lucky Too out of Madeira Beach and can be reached at (727) 397-8815 or by e-mail at Luckytoo2@aol.com.

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